A Reasonable Response by Reasonable People

Nuclear weapons provide humanity the capability to wipe out an entire city with a single missile. However, with the exception of the end of World War II, they haven’t been used in warfare. Each country that has developed nuclear weapons has performed a lot of test detonations to show the world how big their dick is but nobody has dared use them because they’re not seen as a reasonable response to anything other than weapons of mass destruction.

The Pentagon wants to change that attitude. Instead of treating nuclear weapons as an unreasonable response to anything other than weapons of mass destruction, it wants to treat nuclear weapons as a reasonable response to a list of other things including malicious hackers:

WASHINGTON — A newly drafted United States nuclear strategy that has been sent to President Trump for approval would permit the use of nuclear weapons to respond to a wide range of devastating but non-nuclear attacks on American infrastructure, including what current and former government officials described as the most crippling kind of cyberattacks.

For decades, American presidents have threatened “first use” of nuclear weapons against enemies in only very narrow and limited circumstances, such as in response to the use of biological weapons against the United States. But the new document is the first to expand that to include attempts to destroy wide-reaching infrastructure, like a country’s power grid or communications, that would be most vulnerable to cyberweapons.

The paradox of nuclear weapons is that they offer a terrible power but are only useful as a deterrent. If you have nuclear weapons and your enemy has nuclear weapons, peace can exist because you both have the power to wipe the other side out. Neither side will launch because it will result in their demise as well. But what happens when a nuclear armed country acts in an unreasonable manner? What happens when one decides to nuke a nonnuclear power? In all likelihood that nuclear power would be seen by other nuclear powers as unreasonable, unstable, and an imminent threat. Their fear could lead them to bring aggression, possibly nuclear aggression, against the unreasonable nation.

As WOPR in the movie War Games concluded, when nuclear weapons are involved the only winning move is not to play.

3 thoughts on “A Reasonable Response by Reasonable People”

  1. Nuclear weapons are probably the most singularly useless weapons developed for the reason you so aptly noted in the last sentence. A properly structured cyber attack has the potential to generate as many casualties as a nuclear strike without all the infrastructure required for nuclear weapons. So what is the proper response when such an attack causes 50 to 100 megadeaths? Nuclear weapons are pretty blunt instruments but it may be all we have left.

    1. The first thing that needs to be done to guard against external network attacks is properly securing your network. This involves everything from properly setup firewalls and network monitors to completely isolating critical machines (as in no network connectivity ideally or only isolated network connectivity if it absolutely must communicate with other machines). The United States government has been woefully irresponsible in this and has therefore left itself wide open for attack. Anything equipment that could be hacked in such a way as to cause death or injury needs separate monitoring equipment that can shut it down if it starts acting in an unsafe manner (which a lot of potentially deadly equipment has).

      Once the defensive war is taken care of, the next thing to focus on is the offensive war. If somebody is hacking your network, you should be hacking them back. After all, you can’t drop a nuclear weapon on an enemy without identifying them and the only realistic way to identify an enemy hacker is to hack into their systems (and even then attribution is difficult).

  2. Nuclear weapons are pretty blunt instruments but it may be all we have left.

    A cyber attack that can be launched from location A can very likely be launched from location B as well. You gonna nuke every place on earth with electric power? That would be a “blunt instrument” indeed.

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